Vinyl chloride monomer Prices, markets & analysis
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Due to high feedstock ethylene costs and extremely tight price margins, VCM prices closely mirrored downstream polyvinyl chloride (PVC) prices. However, following the change in PVC prices, there was typically one or two weeks’ delay before VCM prices followed suit. This is because VCM market participants preferred to wait for a clear direction to be established in the downstream PVC market before commencing their negotiations.
Spot VCM supply remained extremely tight throughout the third quarter due to a number of turnarounds at a few major producers’ facilities, which provided some upward pressure on prices. VCM imports from outside of Asia-Pacific were extremely unlikely due to high freight cost as VCM is gaseous. The expected completion of an expansion at a major northeast Asia VCM producer might bring some slight relief to the tight supply situation.
Demand remained relatively unchanged, although there were occasions of additional demand from south Asia.
Updated to Q3 2014
Updated to Q3 2014
Activity and price indications in the merchant spot vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) market were practically non-existent during the third quarter. This is because the chlorvinyls systems are mainly integrated and therefore consumption is mainly captive in the domestic market. In addition, freight costs are high for VCM, which means that merchant spot activity is challenging both for domestic use and for export and the price difference especially for export has not been large enough to make it economically viable to export any product, according to one main trader.
As a result, VCM spot prices were steady during the third quarter, with values closely around the $700/tonne FOB northwest Europe. A spot offer significantly above the range were heard from one source in the second half of September, but the same source said it had not concluded any business at this level.
Some vinyl plant maintenances took place during the third quarter and some of the turnarounds were carried out through the value chain, and they were also planned so stocks had been built in advance, which meant that they had not given rise to any additional demand requirements. On top of this, downstream PVC demand had been somewhat mixed during the third quarter. In July, PVC demand fairly solid, while in August it was weak due to the summer holidays in Europe. In September, consumption was not as healthy as had been expected, which some players attributed to economic concerns and uncertainty in parts of Europe.
The US vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) market was distorted by plant outages during the first and most of the second quarter.
Axiall’s VCM plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, has restarted and running at commercial rates, although the company is still working to get maximum production from the plant, which has an annual capacity of more than 630,000 tonnes. The plant suffered a fire in December that kept it out of production for almost the entire first half of the year.
US VCM prices moved up in January, rising from just above $700/tonne in December to average about $800/tonne for most of the year so far.
The return of Axiall’s PHH plant to production may mean that prices are likely to ease back slightly during the third quarter.
Exports of US VCM have held fairly flat during the first quarter and into the second quarter. Most US VCM is exported to Mexico, Canada and Colombia.
Updated to Q2 2014
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